Goodwin Sands
The Goodwin Sands is a 10-mile-long sand bank in the English Channel
English Channel
The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

, lying six miles east off Deal
Deal, Kent
Deal is a town in Kent England. It lies on the English Channel eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town...

 in Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

. The Brake Bank lying shorewards is part of the same geological unit. As the shoal
Shoal, shoals or shoaling may mean:* Shoal, a sandbank or reef creating shallow water, especially where it forms a hazard to shipping* Shoal draught , of a boat with shallow draught which can pass over some shoals: see Draft...

s lie close to major shipping channels, more than 2,000 ships are believed to have been wrecked upon it, and as a result it is marked by lightvessel
A lightvessel, or lightship, is a ship which acts as a lighthouse. They are used in waters that are too deep or otherwise unsuitable for lighthouse construction...

s and buoy
A buoy is a floating device that can have many different purposes. It can be anchored or allowed to drift. The word, of Old French or Middle Dutch origin, is now most commonly in UK English, although some orthoepists have traditionally prescribed the pronunciation...

s. Notable shipwrecks include the , , the , and the South Goodwin Lightship. Several naval battle
Naval battle
A naval battle is a battle fought using boats, ships or other waterborne vessels. Most naval battles have occurred at sea, but a few have taken place on lakes or rivers. The earliest recorded naval battle took place in 1210 BC near Cyprus...

s have been fought nearby, including the Battle of Goodwin Sands
Battle of Goodwin Sands
The naval Battle of Goodwin Sands , fought on 29 May 1652 , was the first engagement of the First Anglo-Dutch War between the navies of the Commonwealth of England and the United Provinces of the Netherlands.- Background :The English Parliament had passed the first of the Navigation...

 in 1652 and the Battle of Dover Strait
Battle of Dover Strait
The Second Battle of Dover Strait was a naval battle of the First World War, fought in the Dover Strait in April 1917 and should not be confused with the major Battle of Dover Strait in 1916...

 in 1917.

Navigational aids

There is currently a lightship
A lightvessel, or lightship, is a ship which acts as a lighthouse. They are used in waters that are too deep or otherwise unsuitable for lighthouse construction...

 on the end of the sands, on the farthest part out, to warn ships. The sands were once covered by two lighthouses on the Kent mainland, one each at the north and south ends of the sands. The southern lighthouse
South Foreland Lighthouse
South Foreland Lighthouse is a Victorian lighthouse on the South Foreland in St. Margaret's Bay, Dover, Kent, England, used to warn ships approaching the nearby Goodwin Sands. It went out of service in 1988 and is currently owned by the National Trust...

 is now owned by the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

, and the northern one is still in operation.

The Island of Lomea

In 1817, borings in connection with a plan by Trinity Board
Trinity House
The Corporation of Trinity House of Deptford Strond is the official General Lighthouse Authority for England, Wales and other British territorial waters...

 to erect a lighthouse on the Sands revealed, beneath fifteen feet of sand, a stratum identified by Charles Lyell
Charles Lyell
Sir Charles Lyell, 1st Baronet, Kt FRS was a British lawyer and the foremost geologist of his day. He is best known as the author of Principles of Geology, which popularised James Hutton's concepts of uniformitarianism – the idea that the earth was shaped by slow-moving forces still in operation...

 as London clay
London Clay
The London Clay Formation is a marine geological formation of Ypresian age which crops out in the southeast of England. The London Clay is well known for the fossils it contains. The fossils from the Lower Eocene indicate a moderately warm climate, the flora being tropical or subtropical...

 lying upon a chalk basement. Based on this, Lyell proposed that the Sands were the eroded remains of a clay island similar to Sheppey
Isle of Sheppey
The Isle of Sheppey is an island off the northern coast of Kent, England in the Thames Estuary, some to the east of London. It has an area of . The island forms part of the local government district of Swale...

, rather than a mere shifting of the sea bottom shaped by currents and tides. Lyell's assessment was uncritically followed until the mid-twentieth century, and enlarged upon by G.B. Gattie who asserted, based on unsourced legends, that the sands were once the fertile low-lying island of Lomea, which he equated with an island said to be known to the Romans as Infera Insula ("Low Island"). This, Gattie said, was owned in the first half of the 11th century by Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Godwin, Earl of Wessex
Godwin of Wessex , was one of the most powerful lords in England under the Danish king Cnut the Great and his successors. Cnut made him the first Earl of Wessex...

, after whom the sands are named. When he fell from favour, the land was supposedly given to St. Augustine's Abbey, Canterbury, whose abbot
The word abbot, meaning father, is a title given to the head of a monastery in various traditions, including Christianity. The office may also be given as an honorary title to a clergyman who is not actually the head of a monastery...

 failed to maintain the sea walls, leading to the island's destruction, some say, in the storm of 1099 mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle is a collection of annals in Old English chronicling the history of the Anglo-Saxons. The original manuscript of the Chronicle was created late in the 9th century, probably in Wessex, during the reign of Alfred the Great...

. However, the island is not mentioned in the Domesday Book
Domesday Book
Domesday Book , now held at The National Archives, Kew, Richmond upon Thames in South West London, is the record of the great survey of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086...

, suggesting that if it existed it may have been inundated before that work was compiled in 1085–86. The earliest written record of the name "Lomea" seems to be in the De Rebus Albionicis (published 1590) by John Twyne
John Twyne
John Twyne was an English schoolmaster, scholar and author, and also Member of Parliament for Canterbury.-Life:He was born about 1501 at Bullington, Hampshire, the son of William Twyne...

, but no authority for the island's existence is given. There is a brief mention of a sea-tide inundation in 1092 creating the Godwin sands in a 19th century book of agricultural records, re-issued in 1969.

The modern geological view is that the island of Lomea probably never existed. Although the area now covered by sands and sea was once dry land, the Strait of Dover opened in the Weald-Artois chalk range in prehistory – between around 7600 BC and 5000 BC – not within historical time.

17th century

  • John, the son of Phineas Pett
    Phineas Pett
    Phineas Pett was a shipwright and a member of the Pett dynasty.-Family background:Born at "Deptford Strond", he was the second son of Peter Pett of Deptford, his elder brother being named Joseph....

     of Chatham, was involved in an ordeal in the beginning of October 1624, when occurred: "a wonderful great storm, through which many ships perished, especially in the Downs, amongst which was riding there the Antelope
    HMS Antelope (1546)
    The Antelope was originally built as a galleass of the English Tudor navy, launched in 1546. She was rebuilt three times, in 1558 , 1581 and 1618. She thus served in various forms from the time of King Henry VIII to the English Civil War...

     of His Majesty, being bound for Ireland under the command of Sir Thomas Button, my son John then being a passenger in her. A merchant ship, being put from her anchors, came foul of her, and put her also from all her anchors, by means whereof she drove upon the brakes [the Sands], where she beat off her rudder and much of the run abaft, miraculously escaping utter loss of all, for that the merchant ship that came foul of her, called the Dolphin, hard by her utterly perished, both ship and all the company. Yet it pleased God to save her, and got off into the downs, having cut all her masts by the board, and with much labour was kept from foundering." Phineas Pett received news of the shipwreck at Deal
    Deal, Kent
    Deal is a town in Kent England. It lies on the English Channel eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town...

    , and was dispatched by the Lord Admiral to attend to the ship and use his best means to save her. He used chain pumps, replaced the rudder, and fitted jury masts, by which effort she was safely brought to Deptford Dock.

  • In 1690 HMS Vanguard
    HMS Vanguard (1678)
    HMS Vanguard was a 90-gun second-rate ship of the line of the Royal Navy, built at Portsmouth Dockyard and launched in 1678.She ran onto Goodwin Sands in 1690, but was fortunate enough to be hauled off by the boatmen of Deal....

    , a 90-gun second-rate
    In the British Royal Navy, a second rate was a ship of the line which by the start of the 18th century mounted 90 to 98 guns on three gun decks; earlier 17th century second rates had fewer guns and were originally two-deckers or had only partially armed third gun decks. The term in no way implied...

     ship of the line
    Ship of the line
    A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside guns to bear...

    , struck the Sands, but was fortunate enough to be got off by the boatmen of Deal
    Deal, Kent
    Deal is a town in Kent England. It lies on the English Channel eight miles north-east of Dover and eight miles south of Ramsgate. It is a former fishing, mining and garrison town...


Great Storm of 1703

In the Great Storm of 1703
Great Storm of 1703
The Great Storm of 1703 was the most severe storm or natural disaster ever recorded in the southern part of Great Britain. It affected southern England and the English Channel in the Kingdom of Great Britain...

 at least 13 men-of-war and 40 merchant vessels were wrecked in the Downs, with the loss of 2,168 lives and 708 guns. Yet, to their credit, the Deal boatmen were able to rescue 200 men from this ordeal.

Naval vessels lost to the sands included:, Deptford built, and from there locally manned, lost with all hands, Deptford built, and from there locally manned, lost with all hands, a 70-gun third-rate
In the British Royal Navy, a third rate was a ship of the line which from the 1720s mounted between 64 and 80 guns, typically built with two gun decks . Years of experience proved that the third rate ships embodied the best compromise between sailing ability , firepower, and cost...

 built at Deptford in 1679
  • The Woolwich fourth-rate
    In the British Royal Navy, a fourth rate was, during the first half of the 18th century, a ship of the line mounting from 46 up to 60 guns. While the number of guns stayed subsequently in the same range up until 1817, after 1756 the ships of 50 guns and below were considered too weak to stand in...

     , totally overwhelmed with the loss of 343 men
  • The boom ship HMS Mortar, lost with all 65 of her crew.

18th and 19th centuries

According to legend the Lady Lovibond
Lady Lovibond
The Lady Lovibond was a schooner that was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands, off the Kent coast of south-east England, on 13 February 1748, and is said to reappear there every fifty years as a ghost ship....

was wrecked on the Goodwin Sands on February 13, 1748, amidst alleged controversy over the cause of her sinking in which all hands were lost. She is said to reappear every fifty years as a ghost ship. No references to the shipwreck are known to exist in contemporary records or sources, including newspapers, Lloyd's List
Lloyd's List
Lloyd's List is one of the world's oldest continuously-running journals, having provided weekly shipping news in London as early as 1734. Now published daily, a recent issue was numbered 59,200...

 or Lloyd's Register
Lloyd's Register
The Lloyd's Register Group is a maritime classification society and independent risk management organisation providing risk assessment and mitigation services and management systems certification. Historically, as Lloyd's Register of Shipping, it was a specifically maritime organisation...


The brig
A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and manoeuvrable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries...

  was wrecked on the Sands in a storm in 1851; seven men of her crew were rescued by the lifeboat from Broadstairs
Broadstairs is a coastal town on the Isle of Thanet in the Thanet district of east Kent, England, about south-east of London. It is part of the civil parish of Broadstairs and St Peter's, which includes St. Peter's and had a population in 2001 of about 24,000. Situated between Margate and...


20th century

The Belgian cargo ship was wrecked on the sands in 1907.

Two ships named ran aground on the Sands, one in 1909 and the other in 1939.

The passenger ship collided with the freighter Prospector near the Sands in June 1953, severely damaging and nearly sinking her.

The Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline
Radio Caroline is an English radio station founded in 1964 by Ronan O'Rahilly to circumvent the record companies' control of popular music broadcasting in the United Kingdom and the BBC's radio broadcasting monopoly...

 vessel drifted onto the Sands in November 1991, effectively ending the era of offshore pirate radio in Britain.

A Dornier Do 17
Dornier Do 17
The Dornier Do 17, sometimes referred to as the Fliegender Bleistift , was a World War II German light bomber produced by Claudius Dornier's company, Dornier Flugzeugwerke...

 Z2 made an emergency landing in the sea over the sands on 26 August 1940 after a bombing raid. Two of the four man crew were killed on impact, the remaining crew becoming POWs. The Dornier was located on the sands in September 2008 and plans are being made to recover it, as it is the only aircraft of this type in existence.

Potential airport site

The August 1969 issue of Dock and Harbour Authority magazine carried an article 'A National Roadstead' which reported on a 1968 proposal to the Ministry of Transport for construction of a deep water port on the reclaimed Goodwin Sands. In 1985 consultants Sir Bruce White Wolfe Barry and Partners promoted a proposal for developing an International Freeport combined with a two runway airport located on three reclaimed islands on the sands. In 2003, the idea was still under consideration. Being far from residential areas it has the advantage of 24 hour-a-day take-offs and landings without causing disturbance.


In the summer of 1824, Captain K. Martin, then the Harbourmaster at Ramsgate, instituted the proceedings of the first known cricket match on the Goodwin Sands, at low water. Such was the tenacity of local mariners that a tradition sprang up that survives to this day, whereby those so inclined make the journey to the Sands for a leisurely few hours in pursuit of this very English pastime. When hovercraft
A hovercraft is a craft capable of traveling over surfaces while supported by a cushion of slow moving, high-pressure air which is ejected against the surface below and contained within a "skirt." Although supported by air, a hovercraft is not considered an aircraft.Hovercraft are used throughout...

 ran from Dover
Dover is a town and major ferry port in the home county of Kent, in South East England. It faces France across the narrowest part of the English Channel, and lies south-east of Canterbury; east of Kent's administrative capital Maidstone; and north-east along the coastline from Dungeness and Hastings...

, they used to make occasional trips to the sands. An annual cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 match was until 2003 played on the sands at low tide, and a crew filming a reconstruction of this for the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 television series Coast
Coast (TV series)
Coast is a BBC documentary series first broadcast on BBC Two television in 2005. A second series started on 26 October 2006, a third in early 2007 and a fourth in mid-2009...

had to be rescued by the Ramsgate
Ramsgate is a seaside town in the district of Thanet in east Kent, England. It was one of the great English seaside towns of the 19th century and is a member of the ancient confederation of Cinque Ports. It has a population of around 40,000. Ramsgate's main attraction is its coastline and its main...

 lifeboat when they experienced difficulty in 2006.

Literary references

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 mentions the Sands in The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice
The Merchant of Venice is a tragic comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1596 and 1598. Though classified as a comedy in the First Folio and sharing certain aspects with Shakespeare's other romantic comedies, the play is perhaps most remembered for its dramatic...

, Act 3 Scene 1:
Why, yet it lives there uncheck'd that Antonio
Antonio (Merchant of Venice)
Antonio is the title character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. He is a middle-aged bachelor and merchant by trade who has his financial interests tied up in overseas shipments when the play begins. He is kind, generous, honest and confident, and is loved and revered by all the Christians...

a ship of rich lading wrecked on the narrow seas;
the Goodwins, I think they call the place; a very
dangerous flat and fatal, where the carcasses of many
a tall ship lie buried, as they say, if my gossip
Report be an honest woman of her word.

Herman Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

 mentions them in Moby-Dick
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, was written by American author Herman Melville and first published in 1851. It is considered by some to be a Great American Novel and a treasure of world literature. The story tells the adventures of wandering sailor Ishmael, and his voyage on the whaleship Pequod,...

, Chapter VII, The Chapel:
In what census of living creatures, the dead of mankind are included; why it is that a universal proverb says of them, that they tell no tales, though containing more secrets than the Goodwin Sands...

R. M. Ballantyne, the noted Scottish writer of adventure stories, published The Floating Light of the Goodwin Sands in 1870.

W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 quotes the phrase "to set up shop on Goodwin Sands" in his poem In Sickness and in Health. This is a proverbial expression meaning to be shipwrecked.

G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

's poem The Rolling English Road refers to "the night we went to Glastonbury
Glastonbury is a small town in Somerset, England, situated at a dry point on the low lying Somerset Levels, south of Bristol. The town, which is in the Mendip district, had a population of 8,784 in the 2001 census...

 by way of Goodwin Sands."

Charles Spurgeon
Charles Spurgeon
Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a large British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the "Prince of Preachers"...

 mentions them in The Soul Winner, chapter 15 "Encouragement to Soul-Winners."
Their theology shifts like the Goodwin Sands, and they regard all firmness as so much bigotry.

Ian Fleming
Ian Fleming
Ian Lancaster Fleming was a British author, journalist and Naval Intelligence Officer.Fleming is best known for creating the fictional British spy James Bond and for a series of twelve novels and nine short stories about the character, one of the biggest-selling series of fictional books of...

 refers to the Goodwin Sands in Moonraker, one of the James Bond
James Bond
James Bond, code name 007, is a fictional character created in 1953 by writer Ian Fleming, who featured him in twelve novels and two short story collections. There have been a six other authors who wrote authorised Bond novels or novelizations after Fleming's death in 1964: Kingsley Amis,...

 novels, as well as making them a major plot point in his children's story Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The sands are depicted in the 1929 film The Lady from the Sea
The Lady from the Sea (film)
The Lady from the Sea is a British romance film directed by Castleton Knight and starring Moore Marriott, Moya Goya, and Ray Milland....

, which is sometimes known by the title of Goodwin Sands.

Further reading

  • Richard Larn
    Richard Larn
    Richard James Vincent Larn, OBE is a retired Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy, a businessman and maritime history writer who is widely regarded as one of Britain's leading historic shipwreck experts.-Career at Sea:...

     and Bridget Larn - Shipwrecks of the Goodwin Sands (Meresborough Books, 1995) ISBN 0-948193-84-0

  • Steve Conway - Shiprocked - Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline (Liberties Press, Dublin, 2009) ISBN 978-1-905483-62-4 (author gives his account of running aground on the Goodwin Sands and helicopter rescue)

  • Raymond Lamont Brown - 'Phantom’s of the Sea' (Taplinger Publishing Company, NY 1972) ISBN 0-8008-5556-6

External links

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